Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lundqvist Returns – Rangers Fall 4-2 to Bruins

Okay so – we don’t like the Bruins. 

The long-awaited return of Henrik Lundqvist to the Rangers starting lineup was Saturday in what my cousins used to call Boss-town.  There was some bad luck – some rust – some bad goal-judging in Toronto – and, well, at 5:53 of the 2nd period it was 4-0 Boston. 

But we like to look on the bright side here at Blueshirt-Brothers so we’ll say this – for the rest of the game the King shut the Bruins out.  Of course – they only took 3 shots at Hank the third period.

An odd note – Tukka Rask took himself out of the game ten seconds into the second period with what the Bruins eventually called “dehydration”.  Maybe that’s the flu. 

We did get – finally – Nash’s 40th goal of the season after Hank stopped a breakaway and Nash got a nice feed for the tap in as he streaked past Charra.

And at 19:47 of the third – Matt Hunwick made it 4-2 for our final score.

What Did We Learn?  That even the King can get a little rust in his crown.

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for J.T. Miller, Kreider, Stepan, and Yandle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  We had no powerplays and Boston was 0-1 on theirs.

Where Do We Stand?  It was fun while it lasted.  The President can keep his lousy trophy.  We now trail Montreal, Nashville, and Anaheim.  On the bright side – in the Metro – the Islanders are now in third.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Back down I-95 for a game at home verses the hated Washington Capitals – the guys that broke Klein’s arm.  If you’re Vigneault do you use Talbot or Hank?  I’m guessing Talbot.   

Non-Sequitur of the day:  I was rooting Notre Dame – and they almost pulled it off. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rangers Clinch Playoffs - Beat Ottawa and Hambuglar 5-1

What a night!  The Rangers may have broken the hottest team in hockey, humiliating the (formerly) red hot Ottawa Senators 5-2 on their home ice – lighting up the NHL’s hottest goaltender (the Hamburgler) for 5 goals on 17 shots – and best of all – clinching the playoffs with 101 points!

The Senators had been 14-0-1 in Matthew Hammond’s incredible rookie run.  But the Rangers came to town and changed all that.  By early in the second period – the embarrassed Senators had to sit the man the nicknamed “the Hamburglar” because the Rangers had lit him up for 4 goals in 17 shots.

The first goal was beautiful.  Derek Stepan didn’t have a direct passing lane to Chris Kreider – so he banked an outlet pass off the end boards that Kreider caught in full stride and beat Hammond short side for the 1-0 lead.

17 seconds later it was 1-1, thanks in part to a puck that bounced past Yandle, but we like to focus on positives here.

A few minutes later, Boyle followed the rush in the offensive zone – took the wide open feed – and buried it for the 2-1 lead at 5:20.

And then – oin the final minute – Stepan’s shot hit Hammond in the chest and popped up and over him.  It may have been heading in anyway – but Kreider swooped in behind the Senator’s goalie and buried the one-footer and at 19:00 it was 3-1.

That was already more goals than Hammond had let up in his pro career.  And the imaginary man at the floodgates was thinking about opening them.

Early in the second – Kevin Hayes found an accelerating Mats Zuccarello who fired the puck past Hammond yet again for the Rangers 4th goal in 17 shots.  At this point the Hamburglar was cooked (Editor – Really?) and Ottawa gave the rookie his first benching of his young career.

But the Rangers weren’t done.  The middle of the 2nd period turned into a Rangers penalty fest – with Rick Nash serving two separate two minute penalties in a 4 and a half minute span.  Tanner Glass soon joined Ricky in the box after a slashing penalty and it was 5 on 3.  The Rangers did a great job defending that, and when Glass eventually followed Nash out of the penalty box – Stepan found him for an off man rush that Tanner burried to break a long scoring drought (and net him the Broadway hat)
It was 5-1 and the evening was over as far as competitive hockey was concerned.

The third period was another Ranger penalty-fest – resulting with us killing off another three powerplays and emerging with the 5-1 victory.

Cam Talbot was again great in net – this time with Henrik Lundqvist serving as the backup.  Cam Stopped 24 of 24 shots for a .958 save percentage – which will win you a lot of hockey games.  The Rangers dominated the Senators – limited them to just 4 shots in the second and 9 in the third – despite all the powerplays and Ottawa attempting to get back in the game.  Great win.

There was a scary moment when Dan Girardi had to leave the ice with an injury – but late reports is that it was just a gash requiring stitches. 

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers refuse to lose two in a row.

Assist “Sisters”:   A lot:  2 each for Stepan and Hayes.  Singles for Kreider (to go with his 2 goals), Boyle and Zuccarello, (to go with their single goals), Yandle and Nash.  

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  The Rangers had no powerplays – but stopped all six of Ottawa’s.  So it was a big factor.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s great.  First of all – at 101 points we lead the league in points – and we are the first team in the NHL to CLINCH A PLAYOFF SPOT.  8 points up on the Islanders. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Saturday afternoon in Boston.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Skapski was sent down to the AHL.  We’ll miss you, red.  Replacing him as the Rangers backup netminder is some guy named Lundqvist (yes I checked the spelling).  We’ll see if this Swedish fellow can help the team.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Greatness Returns – Rangers Top Ducks 7-2 to reclaim NHL’s top honors

Honestly I don’t understand.  All these years of watching the Rangers play has not prepared me for such… such goodness.  Just when the Rangers seemed to be winning ugly – when they had forgotten how to score – when their impressive run seemed to be headed for an extended slump, what do they do?

On zero days rest – without their best goalie, their 2nd best scorer and their top scoring defenseman – they humiliate the West’s top team – the Anaheim Ducks – 7-2.

That’s seven to two.  A blowout where the Ducks yanked one goalie after three goals and may have thought about yanking his replacement after another four.  It was a remarkable moment in an increasingly remarkable season.  It was fun and cool.

And of course this all happened as we were being (typically) out face-offed and out-shot by what was the best team in hockey.

In the first period, on the game’s second minute, the Rangers dominated – looking like they were on the powerplay.  The puck got behind Andersen and Kreider was quick with the stick, getting behind the Duck’s netminder and cashing in one of the shortest shots you’re ever likely to see in an NHL game.

The Ducks struck back quickly – but the Rangers weren’t done yet.

At 5:43 the Rangers got two things they’ve been missing for far too long – a Stepan Goal and a Power Play goal.  It was a blast from point and we led 2-1 – a lead we would never relinquish.

Five minutes Hagelin got credited for a goal when a spin-a-rama bounced in off his skate for the 3-1 lead.  That was 3 goals on 7 shots and ended Andersen’s evening.

The Ducks quacked one more time to make it 3-2 after one.  But the Rangers added two more in the 2nd.  The first by J.T. Miller and then Stepan stole the puck and fired his 2nd of the night – unassisted – and it was 5-2.

In the third Derek Brassard and Jesper Fast got it to the 7-2 final.  Great game all around,  Cam was great again stopping 32 of 34 shots.

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers can still score.

Assist “Sisters”:   Too many to mention!

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We finally got a powerplay goal

Where Do We Stand?  On top.  Of everyone.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Tuesday night at home to the Kings

Non-Sequitur of the day:  My oldest son’s 21st birthday today!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rangers win ugly – but beat Carolina in Shootout

At the end of the night its 2 points and we’ll take it.  The Rangers played a good second period in Carolina, Cam Talbot played a good game period, and Zuccarello got the game winner in the shootout (and this sentence ends with a period).

The historical streak of (was it 8?) consecutive games giving up one goal or less came to an end as the Hurricane’s dominated the third period (like they had the first) and scored to tie the game and send it to Overtime.  You can’t blame Cam Talbot, who once again stood tall in goal and did more than give the Rangers a chance to win – he won the game by not letting up more than the 2 goals.

The second period is where the Rangers did all their best work – offensively and defensively.  They outshot the Hurricane 14-5 and scored twice. 

At 3:39 it was J. T. Miller, skating with Brassard and Zuc.  Zuccarello, who heard his name called by the fans even though the Rangers were away, made a perfect pass through traffic to J. T. as he streaked alone to the net.  Miller intended to knock the puck to his forehand, but instead tipped the puck right past Khudobin for the tying goal.  As J. T. tried to position his stick for the forehand shot that never came – it faked out the Hurricane goaltender while the puck slipped past him.

And later it was Jesper Fast, who had scoring chances all night, doing the full 360 spin-a-rama between the circles and zipping the puck over Khudobin’s right shoulder for the 2-1 lead.

After the Hurricane’s tied it in the third, and a scoreless O.T., we were on to the shootout, where Cam had been simply awful in earlier tries this season.  But we‘ve been watching the Ranger backup net minder grow into an up and coming star before our eyes and this shootout was a much different than any we’d seen Cam in before.  He was simply perfect, stopping all three Carolina attempts. 

And for the Rangers – Mats Zuccarello faked (deked?) with his backhand, pulled it back to his forehand and slid the puck around Khudobin’s pad for the game winner.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that seasons evolve.  .And right now the Rangers are winning with goaltending and blocked shots (24 tonight).

Assist "sisters" of the game: Kevin Hayes, Brassard, and Zuccarello (big one)

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Thankfully no – we were (once again) 0 for 2 on the PP, while Carolina scored once in two tries.  It almost cost us one and will eventually if we can’t figure out how to score with the extra skater.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s good.  First place in the Metro, somehow 5 points above the Islanders with 3 games at hand.  14 points above 9th place Ottawa (who are just 1 point behind 8th place Boston).  Montreal has 2 points on us for the East, but have played 3 more times.  Same thing for Anaheim over in the west (who we play tomorrow)

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  No rest.  We scoot home to take on the league leading Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  I had Hampton winning the National Championship – so my bracket is kind of busted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blackhawks deal Rangers rare home loss 1-0

Huh?  We lost?  Shutout by Scott Darling?  It was our first loss at home since January and our 2nd regulation loss overall in 19 games.  

And damn it - we almost won.  Boyle slammed a 3 on 2 opportunity off the cross bar and the rebound started a Chicago rush that ended with a lucky bounce to ex-ranger Brad Richards who made a big time patient play to beat Cam Talbot for the game winner.  Chicago downed us 1-0.  We actually scored in this game - but the refs blew a fast whistle and the goal was waved off.  

Still - for an 8th straight game the Rangers let up one goal or less - an all time Ranger record.  Lundqvist never did this.  Giacomin never did this.  Davidson and Vanbiesbrouck neither (Gump Worsley?) .  It is Cam (and Skapski) who have put together this remarkable streak.  

Tough loss.  

What Did We Learn?  We learned once again that winning the faceoff battle (which we did 37-26) is – at least for this team this year – a meaningless stat)

Uh, A Little Help?  Nope.  Shut out – so no assists.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We were 0 for 2 and our PK was 2-2.  But one goal would have meant everything.

Where Do We Stand?  Still number 1 in the league.  Three other teams have 95 points – but we’ve played less games.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Rest and practice.  Then to Carolina on Saturday 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Someone send me a bracket.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rangers Find A Way - Beat Panthers 2-1

Over the years I’ve watched when the Rangers played really good teams so I know what really good teams look like.  And now, somehow, the Rangers loom like a really good team.

What they did last night against the Florida Panthers, winning 2-1, is one of those things that really good teams do.  They found a way to win a game they were outplayed.

And they were totally outplayed – particularly in the 2nd period – but a Florida Panthers team in 9th place in the East and desperate for points.  Florida launched 98 attempts at the Ranger goal. 

And how did they win?  There were two big things the Rangers did that this year’s team had never done before. 

The first was Cam Talbot.  Cam has had shutouts before – and this wasn’t one of those.  But you can argue this was his best game as a Ranger.  Cam looked like Lundqvist.  There’s no other way to put it.  He was magnificent in goal – keeping the Rangers not only in the game – but ahead in the game despite the barrage of 39 Florida shots. 

And the other factor was amazing.  The Rangers found a way to block 36 shots.  This is more blocks than any game since the NHL started counting this stat ten years ago.  This is more blocks than any game we played under John Tortorella – the coaching king of the blocked shot.  It’s just not something that this year’s Rangers do – except that they did it last night because they needed to. 

They needed just two goals to win last night and they got them.  The first was a fabulous James Sheppard tip in off a Hunwick slapshot from the point.  Thank you Glen Sather.  Hunwick is a great 7th defenseman who was playing because of Klein’s injury.  And Sheppard was part of the Yandel deal.  Sheppard made a great pass to Hunwick to set up the shot – if you could get an assist on your own goal Sheppard would have one. 

And then in the third it was Hunwick’s slapshot again – this time beating Dan Ellis all by himself. 

It wasn’t much – 2 goals - but this year’s Rangers found a way to win with it.

On piece of bad news – Marty St. Louis appeared to hurt his knee.  But Vigneault said later it didn’t appear to be serious and that we’ll know more in a day or two.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that for one night at least Cam can be Hank.  And that the Rangers can block shots when they need to. 

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists for Fast, Hunwick, and Sheppard.  A night for the new and recently added Rangers.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We were 0 for 2 and our PK was 2-2.  A wash.

Where Do We Stand?  Still number 1 in the league.  At the top!  95 points.  5 up on the Islanders with 3 at hand.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Blackhawks at home on Wednesday.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Please hockey gods – make Marty St. Louis okay.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Can we play Buffalo every night? Rangers beat Sabres 2-0

If you want to look at this by purely from a statistical standpoint – Henrik Lundqvist has been good this year – Cam Talbot has been better – and Mackenzie Skapski has been better still.  The Ranger rookie goalie has now played 119 minutes and 46 seconds of shutout hockey – defeating the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 to keep the Rangers’ on top of the Metro, the East, and the NHL.

The kid stopped all 20 shots that came his way – several of them quality saves.  Of course the Rangers helped by rallying around the young netminder in his 2nd ever NHL game – limiting a not-so-good Buffalo team to just 20 shots.

The contest was scoreless midway through the third period when Keith Yandle got his first goal as a Ranger on a hard shot from the point that was aided greatly by a Chris Kreider screen on Lindback. 

From there the Rangers held the lead.  There was a brilliant sequence with 5 minutes to go.  Zadorov was whistled for a delayed penalty – a hook against Kreider – while the Rangers kept possession of the puck.  They sent Skapski to the bench to get an extra skater on – knowing that the whistle would blow if the Sabres got the puck.  But here’s the cool part – instead of attacking right away - they deliberately delayed the action – keeping the puck away from Buffalo as time ticked off the clock.  It was more than 45 seconds before the Sabres could make a touch at 15:33.  And then the Rangers had the two minute powerplay.  When that ended there was less than 2 and a half minutes left.

The play that put the game away came in the final minute with the Sabre goalie on the bench.  Marty St. Louis made a great play – intercepting a cross ice pass in the neutral zone – and then shooting the puck from mid-ice into the empty net to put the game away with a 2-0 lead with 33 seconds to go. 

And so the Rangers roll on – once again topping the entire league.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Skapski can play well enough to beat Buffalo.

Uh, A Little Help?  There was just one assist tonight – a big one by Chris Kreider.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Another fail on the power play at 0 of r3.  But the penalty kill was a perfect 3-3

Where Do We Stand?  At the top!  43-17-7 for 93 points puts us in first overall.  We lead the Islanders by 3 points and 9th place Florida by 18 points with 15 games left to play. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The Rangers travel due south from Buffalo to Florida to take on the Panthers Sunday.  At least Cam is rested. 

Non Sequitor of the Day:  Washington has fallen to 8th place in the East.   Wouldn't it be great if they could fall one more slot?